Multi-sports complex “feasible” for former Champion Paper site

Two sports center consulting and managing firms have seen positive results from feasibility studies conducted in 2014 for an “adaptable mixed-use development” at the former Champion Paper mill property.

“With Hamilton’s unique position between the two cities of Cincinnati and Dayton, we saw… a very great opportunity,” said Eric Sullivan, co-owner of Sports Facility Advisory, who conducted the feasibility study for the indoor sports complex portion. “This would be one of the top five facilities in the country from a size and tournament capability.”

Moses B. Glick, owner of industrial scrap and salvage company Moses B. Glick, LLC and its division Green Reclamation, LLC, enlisted Clearwater, Fla.-based Sports Facility Advisory (SFA) and Baltimore, Md.-based Ripken Sports, now the Sports Force, to conduct a privately funded $57,000 feasibility study for an indoor sports facility, outdoor baseball stadium and aquatic center on the 500,000-square-foot property on the west side of North B Street.

Project manager Frances Mennone said she was encouraged by the findings from both SFA and the Sports Force, who covered the baseball stadium portion of the project. Hamilton Joes Owner and Manager Darrel Grissom has already expressed interest in a move for the summer collegiate baseball team from Foundation Field to the west side of the Great Miami River. Mennone said that the Great Miami Rowing Center, across the street at 330 N. B St., would potentially become part of the complex.

Sullivan said SFA looked at the feasibility of a development that focused on three aspects: a sports and recreations portion with multiple courts and turf fields that could host tournaments year-round, a fitness portion with memberships, and an events and entertainment side, “where people can come and enjoy rock climbing and other adventure attractions, and still have the ancillary retail and restaurant features,” he said.

The proposed multiple courts and fields “gives us the ability to host tournaments and such in a way that nobody else in the region can,” Mennone said.

Rounding out the approximate 500,000 square feet of property would be the baseball stadium, which could also host a soccer league, and ample parking for the complex. Next steps will be to develop a business model and begin to raise capital for the project. Hamilton-based firm Community Design Alliance is the criteria architect for the project, and the Hamilton Community Foundation is another Hamilton stakeholder who coordinated the study for the baseball stadium.

The studies looked at the core market of Butler County with average drive times, and then a larger ring of population around the county who would be interested in and willing to drive to the proposed facilities.

The Journal-News reported earlier this week that stakeholders are interested in developing a possible entertainment and sports complex featuring an ice rink in Monroe. Both Sullivan and Mennone said that should both projects come to fruition, they could complement each other, rather than compete in the area.

“We are not proposing that ice be in our complex, so we don’t think that (the possible neighboring sports complex) is prohibitive,” Sullivan said. Mennone added that Monroe’s possible project at 184,000 square feet was much smaller than the complex proposed for Hamilton.

“We have a plethora of outdoor facilities (in Butler County), but there is a void of indoor sports facilities,” she said.

While we are still a long way from shovels in the ground, Sullivan said the positive aspects of the study are confident indicators to move forward with the project.

“We find feasibility ‘no’ more often than we find ‘yes,’ and when we say yes and help a project through development, we’ve never had a project fail,” he said. “It’s a big project, but we did our due diligence and we hope people continue to be excited about the opportunity and we’re able to secure the appropriate level of funding.”

No funding is currently committed to the project, though Mennone said there are “numerous parties who are very excited” to see the project moving forward. Residents surveyed by the Journal-News reported enthusiasm for the project, though some questioned whether other uses might better fit the property.

Butler County Visitors Bureau executive director Mark Hecquet said that a sports complex of the size and components that are being considered in Hamilton would be “fantastic, not just for Hamilton, but for the county.”

“Especially if it’s a year-round project that has the ability to drive businesses year-round,” he said. “It would be a huge economic driver for our county that translates further than visitors, but improves taxes, jobs, the economy.”

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